Borrowed Chords

When loading up a chord set, how can I tell which scale the borrowed chords in the set are from?

Hi @jam_sandwich,

It is quite hard to tell exactly which scale it is borrowed from as there are multiple right answers, but Scaler can help you identify the possible scales:

  • Right-click on any chord and navigate to “Explore scales” which lists all the scales a chord belongs to.

  • You can select multiple chords in the chord set, right-click then “Explore Common Scales” which will list the scales both chords belong to.

I love this feature of Scaler and think it’s a hidden gem - perfect for finding modulations!!!

Thanks for the reply.

Let’s take C major as an example.
Emaj and Amaj are often used in songs in C major

However, I am under “modal interchange”, but Emaj and Amaj do not appear.
Is there any way to put other commonly used chords here?

Well, the answer isn’t any different to when you asked it 14 hours ago :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Why would you expect E maj or A maj to appear in the parallel modes of C ionian? They don’t appear because they don’t exist in any of those modes. With respect to a C maj scale, they are secondary chords, so as a simple answer to your question as to whether or not this display with its current intent will show E maj or A maj, the answer is, as it was before, No.

You could request that here as a new function, and see if you get a response from the team, but you asked this in Jan 22, May 22 (twice), and Sep 22 and got no response, so a priori there doesn’t seem to be much consensus for it.

In each of those cases you included a clip of the Band in a Box Chord Builder, on the basis that it was a much more efficient way to build a progression (not the same thing at all as the modal display). I assume that these previous references to ‘common chords’ is what you are looking for. That’s fine, but it’s not the same as the modal display, so IMHO, that is not a starting point for a BIAB type function.

Personally, I don’t mind if they add the BIAB function or not, but as an ex-user of Band in a Box (which many people here won’t be), I have to admit that I didn’t find it any more efficient than Scaler , but that will depend on your own personal workflow.

BTW, I did point out that you can get the information you seek from the ‘Secondary’ function on the Mod page by looking at the modulation pathways.

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I find it. Secondary Dominants- Write Better Chord Progressions! [MUSIC THEORY / SONGWRITING] - YouTube

You could request that here as a new function, and see if you get a response from the team

Yes, I want common chords to appear, can you help me with this feature request?

Never noticed it, thanks!

I understand. For fun, I tried, for example, a simple chord cycle like this. I did it on the Hooktheory page as shown. Very difficult to try to make a similar chord progression with the Scaler program. It doesn’t really give options anywhere or the possibility of that unless you know that you want exactly those chords called.

Like even this great chord progression. Very difficult to do with Scaler, but very easy to do Hooktheory on the page.

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Scaler already lets you find the secondary dominants using the Secondary scale on the MOD page. A tutorial on Finding Seconday Dominants is inthe tutorials category.

Re using Emaj and A maj in as borrowed chords in the key of C maj: because these two chords are not scale chords they are borrowed from other scales (e.g. A min). If you look at the Secondary scale on the MOD page and use C maj as your secondary scale you will find that A7 is suggested as an alternative to D min

and E7 as an alternative to A min.

Also. without going too deeply into music theory, it is often possible to substitute chords which shre two notes with a scale. This can be done to introduce “colour” into your song, and provide variety (just as substituting a 7 chord for the triad introduces colour and variety). So again you can substitute A maj for A min and E maj for E min in the key of C maj.

For me there is one inviolable rule in music, “if it sounds right it is right”. All the other rules are for guidance and may, if warranted, be broken.

For example you may have the following chord sequence in C maj:

D min:- D-F-A
A maj 1st inversion:- C#-E-A
C maj:- C-E-G

A maj is a passing chord (not a scale chord) and playing the bottom notes of these chords in the bass gives you a bass that walks down by semi-tones, which could be really cool sounding.

Hope this gives you some ideas for your projects: try using secondary scales or substituting one note on a triad, and if it sounds right, then use it.

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good tools.
I don’t know how to use!


I have another doubt. For example, a song is said and sung.
The song is in the key of C major. But I don’t want to start with C. I want to start at Dm level or F or G. But when I go back to singing or rapping, I always feel awkward. How to solve this problem? Of course, if it starts from C, it will be fine.

Transpose the song to the new key: see the tutorials on Transposing Patterns

I didn’t know about that feature, either. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t use theory very much stitching chords together (probably shows…). Dominants and inversions a bit, but not much else. When I’m mapping out a progression or starting with an expression, I just slam chords in and try them out - if my ear hears something workable, I just leave it. It may be a “using theory without knowing it or doing it intentionally” type situation, but in reality, I usually just bypass most of Scalar’s theory-assisting features and just spray chords at a piece until it sounds coherent.

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This is fine, but if you have any sort of pitch randomization on another track, say an ambient piece, you need to know which key to constrain the random pitches to. It would be great if Scaler had a less clunky way to identify possible scales for out of scale chords.

If you want to find a scale that will include an “out of scale chord” simply right-click on the chord and select EXPLORE SCALE,

Clicking on a key will display all the scales in that key that include the selected chord

Of course you still have to experiment around the chords in the chosen scale but it can lead to interesting progressions.

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It would be good if you could hover the mouse over a scale, right click, ‘copy scale notes to midi’, without actually selecting the scale from the list. That way, your constraining device has the scale notes to work with.

Maybe Scaler could have a second ‘pattern track’ that would output just the complete scale notes and desired scale change on channel 16 perhaps?

I’m a great believer in ‘serendipity’, as a approach which can give you something unexpected and outside the theory, so your approach has a great deal to offer in enhancing your compositions.

“I don’t use theory very much”
Well, doesn’t in any way detract from the quality of your film soundtracks …